I was just 8 when Papa Stone died. He was my mother’s father. I remember that for most of those eight years, he did not have running water. He had a deep well with a windlass, a big log that had a handle on one end for raising and lowering a bucket down into the well.
He also had a couple of nails in the doorframe in the kitchen. On one side, was an envelope with a payment record for a burial insurance policy. On the other side was the Old Farmers Almanac. Papa no longer earned a living by farming, but he planted a pretty big garden that he plowed with a mule. The last mule’s name was Saint John. Papa knew how to call “gee” and “haw” to guide Saint John down the field in a straight line.
Papa had a black and white Philco TV. I never remembered seeing it turned on. He relied on the almanac for the weather. It had a lot to do with the phases of the moon. Doppler color radar was not yet around on TV. We just had Guy Sharpe and Johnny Beckman and a board you could draw on. Some TV stations had a sun with a smiley face that I guess was supposed to make us happy that the sun would be shining.
I don’t know what the person who writes the Old Farmers Almanac predicted this year, but it has been one strange spring.
I found a story from the almanac that debated whether spring officially begins on March 20 or 21. I’ve been debating whether it began on April 21.
We bought a bunch of flowers at the beginning of the month. Every time I’ve thought about planting them, Old Man Winter comes knocking on the door ... again.
It’s never easy dressing at this time of year. In the morning, you dress warmly. By the afternoon, you can walk around in short sleeves.
If we think we had a tough time, ask somebody up north.
My friend, Lee, lives in Pierre, SD. If you live in South Dakota, you know a thing or two about winter weather. They have lakes up that way that freeze so solidly that people take cabins out on the ice and go ice fishing. Winter fishing includes bass, walleye, catfish and perch.
The lakes took their time this year about defrosting. On the shoreline and for miles around, there was plenty of snow.
The good thing is that there are plenty of snowcaps on the mountains. Some places, like Idaho and Utah, depend on the snowmelt to provide sufficient water during the rest of the year.
My friends in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan and further into the northeast have had snow until a few days ago.
All of this is not unheard of. In Columbus, Ga., the last frost was on April 21 in 1953. In Macon, the latest frost was on April 20, 1983. Those two cities are below the gnat line. Pretty good chance there were a few frozen gnats those years.
Maybe, just maybe, we have reached the real start of spring. I’ll even swat and blow a few gnats if I have to.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose column publishes on Sundays.